THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF IMAGE, IMAGE CONGRUENCE AND ALLIGNMENT
A survey of women in the USA found that a staggering 91% were not happy with their body. It was thought that this was in part due to an observation that only 5% of women have a body type considered consistent with that promoted in American media.
I imagine that for many this finding is not surprising. What might be surprising however is the impact that self-image – real or ideal – has on consumer behaviour and in particular purchase behaviour and brand loyalty.
Self-image real and ideal is a major influencer and driver of consumer behaviour. Indeed, if it were not there would be little point in branding. Developing a brand is all about developing a brand image that aligns with the self-image of individuals within the target market.
Research has shown time and again that:
- The alignment of self-image and brand image impacts on an initial purchase.
- The alignment of self-image and brand image impacts on brand experience.
- The alignment of self-image and brand image impacts on brand satisfaction.
Research has shown that in selecting a product or brand, consumers commonly though unconsciously ask themselves questions like:
- Is this product consistent with my social status?
- Is this product consistent with my intellectual capacity?
- Is this product consistent with how fashionable I am?
Further, the answers to these questions and many others like them impact directly on whether or not a purchase is made.
I regularly visit a supermarket to buy sparking mineral water to quaff when I am working. When I do, I frequently notice people leaving the supermarket with similar quantities of Coca Cola. On one such occasion it occurred to me that I would not be seen dead with Coke in my trolley. I further realised that in addition to my belief that Coke is poison, I also held an unconscious view that there was a lack of alignment between my self-image and the brand image of Coca Cola.
Considering the matter further I realised that there are a number of products and services that I consider inconsistent with my self-image, including – the West Australian Newspaper, four wheel drive motor vehicles, pay at the counter café’s and strip shows. Some of these products I would not buy because they are rubbish (such as the west Australian newspaper) but all I would not buy because deep down I see a lack alignment between my self-image and my image of these products, services and associated brands.
This kind of behaviour is common among all human beings. While for many the relationship between their self-image and purchase behaviour may remain unconscious it is none the less powerful. I would argue, and experimental research suggests that it is difficult to get people to buy products that are inconsistent with their self-image – real or ideal.
I would argue that the skill of effective branding is all about:
- Identifying the market where there can be alignment between self-image and brand image.
- Understanding the self-image of members of the market and which aspects can be engaged.
- Developing a brand image that is well aligned with the individual’s self-image.
This in turn highlights the benefits of research designed to understand the target market and the aspects of individual’s self-image that can be addressed.
- Purchase behaviour is impacted by self-image and brand image alignment.
- Aligning self-image and brand image is critical to maximising sales.
- The starting point of any great branding campaign is identifying an aspect of the audiences self-image that can be engaged.